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HEBREWS xii. 14.
Follow holiness, without which, no man shall see the Lord.
THE HE term holiness bears different significations in Scripture. Sometimes it implies no more than absence, or want of sin and impurity, or, speaking generally, a separation from all moral imperfection. In this sense, our blessed Lord is described, as being "holy, harmless, and "undefiled." It is at other times frequently put in opposition to gross sin and wickedness, as in the following passage: "Let us cleanse ourselves from all "filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.'
This notion of holiness requires, that we not only refrain from indulging in all gross acts of criminal sensuality, but that we banish every impure thought and unholy desire from the breast,-that we not merely abstain from all actual violation of God's holy commands, but cultivate the utmost purity of heart and principle. In the verse read to you as the subject of our present reflections, this is clearly implied.
Religion does not consist in a bare freedom from sin, but in the powerful and steady exercise of every pious and virtuous disposition. There is, therefore, something positive included under the meaning of the term holiness, as used in our text; for when in Scripture one sin is forbidden, we find that the opposite duty is generally enjoined. Religion admits of no medium in our moral and spiritual condition; we must either be positively good or positively evil. In all those whose natures are sanctified and renewed by the Spirit of God, holiness of heart will ever be followed by holiness or purity of action, and will appear in the whole of their life and conversation. This
positive holiness consists in acts of piety toward God, and of charity toward man ; and, in general, in an imitation of all the perfections of the divine nature, as pourtrayed in the character and life of our blessed Lord. Under it, therefore, are comprehended all the duties of the Christian life, as clearly and familiarly exemplified by the same exalted personage. In a word, holiness may be said to consist in a conformity to the nature and will of God; from whom, through the agency of his Spirit, are derived all those various degrees of it, which are enjoyed and exercised by Christians in this life, and are necessary to prepare them for seeing the Lord,
The necessity of holiness in the heart and life, we shall, under the divine blessing, endeavour to shew, from the two following considerations :
I. That it is the express command and will of God, revealed in the Scriptures, and his great design in all the laws and institutions of religion. And,
II. That it is necessary to our happiness in every stage of our existence.
In the first place, The necessity of holiness may be urged from its being the express command and will of God, revealed in the Scriptures, and his great design in all the laws and institutions of religion.
It cannot be denied that God, as he is the Creator and Governor of the world, has a right to impose on his rational offspring whatever laws his infinite wisdom deems proper. If this be allowed, it must follow of consequence, that they are in the strongest manner bound to implicit obedience. This will be the more readily granted, when we consider that God might have imposed, if he had pleased, hard laws, and required difficult tasks at our hands; but instead of his laws being a heavy burden, or an oppressive yoke to his people, they are in truth the greatest blessing, and demand every acknowledgment that gratitude can express. Instead of requiring severe duties on our part, in return for the innumerable blessings he is daily bestowing, our heavenly Father brings us under fresh obligations to him, in subjecting us to the observance of such wise and salutary laws,
laws equally productive of harmony and good order in society, as of inward peace and tranquillity to individuals. When, therefore, we are bound in reason to the performance of the most painful and laborious tasks, had our Creator thought fit to have assigned such to us, how ready and chearful ought our obedience to be, when he says only, "Do this, and "live?" As the servant said to Naaman the Syrian," Had the prophet bid thee do "some great thing, wouldst thou not "have done it? How much more then, "when he hath said, only, Wash and be "clean ?"
Accordingly, we find, that the necessity of our obedience to the laws and will of God, is set forth in the strongest light in many passages of Scripture. "Not
every one," says our Saviour," that saith "Lord, Lord, shall enter into the king"dom of heaven, but he that doth the "will of my Father which is in heaven." His words to the young man, who inquired of him what good thing he should do to have eternal life, are," If thou wilt "enter into life, keep the command"ments." It is very plain, therefore, that